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‘Old Man’ Patrin, the Scribe …

Patrin’s story is told in retrospect. Before Serin passed he suggested Patrin chronicle all that he’s done for the Kingdom of Denion, and now as an old man who is very much aware of his own mortality, he begins his story. It’s important for the reader to understand that Patrin is writing from memory of things decades in the past. While we are privy to his feelings and impressions and thoughts of his youth, his journal entries are subject to the passage of time. He doesn’t always recall the details of a particular matter, some events are related in broad strokes.

One of the obvious traits of his writing is his tendency to recall pain and grief. It’s evident that he hasn’t progressed emotionally from the trauma he experienced in Baler’s camp and later from Galin’s use (betrayal of friendship) of him as an assassin.

But, the story is more than a painful memoir, for even as he writes he is fulfilling one last mission— destroy the remaining otherworldly tech. The opening dialogue of each chapter tells us of his progress; now the old man, lamenting a task that he should have completed as a younger man, follows his own footprints from the past across the continent and far south into foreign lands, seeking a place known only as ‘The Falls’. Once there he will take the last of the tech and rid the world of it.

Author’s Note: I think the greatest lesson that Patrin’s story can offer us is about ‘moving on’. Patrin never progressed beyond the scars of his youth. His earliest memories have marred him, and, for me, the saddest part of the story is that thus far it appears he will die still stuck there, in the past.

Hefft, the Keeper …

Hefft is the grandson of Garret.  Some time after Garret passed, his son, Tellen, drowned.  Tellen’s now widowed wife, finding that she no longer had the means to take care of a young son, delivered him to Patrin.  We don’t know his precise age, but he appears to be in his late twenties or early thirties.  If we consider ‘ten’ to be the age at which he came into Patrin’s care, then it is likely that Patrin was still active in Whitefield, where we know that at Serin’s request he returned to complete his journeyman training as a scribe, and later replaced Serin as Royal Scribe.  Meaning, that Hefft would have spent a good portion of his formative years in the Palace, among the Courts of Denion.

When Patrin retired as Royal Scribe, he returned to the place that gave him the most peace, Galin’s old cabin tucked away in the Grandwood.  Hefft, a grown man by that time, followed the aging Patrin and continued to serve him in the very same place that his grandfather once lived and served Galin.

With the exception of the occasional visit to Woodpoint for supplies, Hefft appears to have secluded himself at the cabin, caring for ‘old man’ Patrin.  At one point he brings home a young boy, that Patrin believes looks too much like him to be anything other than his son.

When Patrin decided to undertake his final mission, Hefft and the boy follow.  Patrin then abandons them at Portis Doha, for fear that the next stage of the journey will prove too much for the ‘weaklings’.

Author’s note: The presence of Hefft’s young son creates an interesting contrast of ‘worlds’ or ideology.  Patrin grew up in ‘violent’ times, but the boy clearly grew up in a more gentle world and is easily frightened by the ‘old man’.

Ylva, the Wolfmaiden

The eldest daugther of King Arbren of Valenkept, and his deceased wife Adolphina, Ylva is the quintessential barbarian Princess.

Through dialogue we learn that Ylva’s mother founded an order of female warriors called the Wolfmaidens, and at her passing Ylva became their leader.  We don’t know the circumstances that led to her decision to lead her warriors deep into Beldenkept territory, but the result was almost fatal for the princess.

Patrin and Xadik, on their trek north, skirt the fortress city of Beldenkept, only to stumble upon a camp of dead female warriors in wolf headdresses.  Patrin finds the half dead Ylva amidst the carnage.  Against Xadik’s will, they rescue her.

With her Wolfmaiden’s dead, and bearing the shame of being rescued by lowlanders, we have Patrin’s observations to tell us that in the late evenings Ylva was busy in the barracks of her former warriors.  She was instrumental in Patrin’s discussion of treason with her father.

Ylva sees the assault on Beldenkept as a natural course of action.  Patrin and Xadik follow her through wintry lands that seem untouched by man.  Arriving at the massive citadel the trio are forced to battle their way through the dungeon like corridors, only to find themselves severely outnumbered at the end of their search.

Garret, the Warden …

A veteran soldier in Denion’s army, Garret was appointed by King Yulin as the Sergeant Warden over his oldest son and heir, Prince Galin.  Possessed of a soldier’s single-mindedness and his own practical nature, Garret was a strong influence in the prince’s life.

We know by ‘old man’ Patrin’s diary entries that Garret had a son named Tellen, who drowned sometime after his passing.  His grandson, Hefft, fell into Patrin’s care and left with him on his final mission, but was later abandoned in Portis Doha because Patrin didn’t believe he was strong enough to face the challenges ahead.  Though, it is possible that Patrin did this in consideration of Hefft’s young son, whom was traveling with them and hadn’t fared well on the long journey south through the Grandwood.

Garret appears to be have been a simple soldier, with nothing notable beyond his skill as a swordsman.  It is not know why King Yulin specifically chose him to be Galin’s guardian, but there is some speculation that they were former acquaintances.  Because of his age it is possible that Garret was involved in the Second Boar War, but we do not know the dates of his service and in his diary Patrin never provides much detail on Garret’s life prior to meeting him.

During younger Prince Halin’s bid for the throne Garret proved his loyalty to be incorruptible.  He was with Galin during the entirety of his exile, and remained with him once they returned in secret to Denion and became a conspirator to place him back on the throne.  We have Patrin’s diary notes showing that he was trained by Garret in swordsmanship, and while it’s never implicitly stated it seems obvious that he trained Xadik and others that Galin found useful.  He is also a skilled woodsman, often teaching Patrin about surviving in the wilderness.

Author’s note: I’ve always seen Garret as being more moral than Galin, but his devotion to the prince and his loyalty to the now dead King Yulin will always win over his better judgement.

Xadik, the farmer …

Not much is know about Xadik’s life prior to Greater Things than Thou.  He was the son of a poor farmer, and while Patrin’s narration is never precise his family farm was somewhere on the north side of the Grandwood, probably near Woodpoint.  It’s not certain when he became part of Galin’s network of agents in Northern Denion, but it’s reasonable to assume he was recruited prior to Garret’s rescue of Patrin at Emondford.  We know that he was at Idra’s home in the Grandwood previous to Patrin’s stay.

Xadik’s first appearance is in Whitefield, where Patrin meets him on Elsina’s estate.  His cybernetic package makes him incredibly strong and durable and Galin has sent him to be Patrin’s ’secondman’, or shieldman, for the final portion of his mission.  He was present with Patrin at Brenit, and at the palace wall.

As there was no reasonable way for Serin to include Xadik in Patrin’s summons to the tower his role was relegated to ensuring that Patrin would be able to escape from the palace, and continue on out of the city.  This proved disastrous.

Patrin, faced with the Sentinels, the sixteen traditional guardsmen of the King, was sorely pressed to complete his mission.  In a desperate attempt to ensure Patrin’s survival, Xadik single-handedly withstood Asaul and his men at the palace’s sally port.

Xadik was a large part of Patrin’s life in those early years as Galin’s agents in securing the kingdom.  Their’s was a friendship that transcended the ‘job’ and in reflection as he writes he laments Xadik’s eventual death.  At some point we know that Patrin visits Xadik’s farm, where he finds it long abandoned and fallen to ruin.  This maybe the reason he titles the second volume of his story All Things Ruin.

Patrin of Orlon (maybe)

Galin and Garret speculate that Patrin is from the Orlon region, as the settlement of Orlon itself is too large for Baler to have sacked and kidnapped the then very young Patrin.  As Greater Thing than Thou opens, it becomes evident that the truth of Patrin’s origins lie some seventy years in the past.  He is an old man now, writing about events that took place decades ago.

Patrin’s narrative doesn’t give us any new insight into the human condition, or some grand scheme of life.  Neither he nor the people around him, or the situations that occur in his lifetime, reveal anything we do not already know.  Instead we are shown things we can readily identify with.  Patrin is relatable, he has been through the same things you have.

As the primary protagonist, Patrin delivers his story from the first person.  We see, hear, and experience everything from his worldview.  From the moment he is kidnapped by Baler’s men- because he has no earlier memory- and on through the years as he meets Galin … holds hands with Lena … fights side by side with Xadik … until all of them eventually leave him and at the end of his life he is left with one purpose, one last mission to fulfill.

The Patrin we see here has grown fearful, paranoid.  It may be that he had similar traits growing up in his hometown, perhaps he always this way.  But, I think the more likely scenario is that he developed his paranoia as a means of survival in the camp.  Baler’s men are the rough sort, conniving thieves and brutal bandits.  It would have been necessary, particularly in those early years, for him to develop a heightened sense of awareness.  It is a miracle of character that he came out of the camp so unlike them.  We generally adopt the mores and values of the people we run with, but not Patrin.  When next we find him at Galin’s secret cabin in the Grandwood, he is just an abused boy.  Fearful and paranoid, of course, but not cruel nor spiteful.

Patrin’s experience with Galin justifies the paranoia he developed in Baler’s camp.  It is his frequent lament that the world is out to get him, that there is no good in it.

At the beginning of their relationship Galin is his friend.  They drink tea in the evenings on the front porch of the cabin, listening to the forest sounds and watching the sun sink behind the tree branches.  Patrin also practices swordsmanship with Galin’s warden, a salt of the earth ex-military man named Garret.  If anyone is honest, it has to Garret … surely.

Galin’s plot matures, sending Patrin across the country and eventually to the seat of the kingdom itself- Whitefield.  The things he faced while in Galin’s care has hardened him emotionally.  He was treated cruelly in Baler’s camp, then came to freedom- if not paradise- at Galin’s cabin, and then it was taken away.  Where would that leave you?  It leaves Patrin jaded, and with an edge of bitterness.  What trust he had in Galin has been sapped.  He has become a pawn in the exiled prince’s plan to retake the throne.

Arriving at the palace’s west tower, Patrin is ready to complete his mission and break the yoke of loyalty that Galin has placed around his neck … but the task ahead will prove difficult, even for a cybernetically enhanced assassin.  In the closing paragraph Patrin is no better off then than when we found him.  Xadik presumed dead, and even his faithful steed, Patience, in peril.

As he considers his final words in the story of those early years, the old man Patrin, reflects on the meaning of home: “In my mind I always go back to that time after Emondford. Doing chores with Garret … his calm and steady presence … tea with Galin early in the morning on the front porch of the cabin.  Those few months, spent with them in simple innocence were the most precious to me.  Over the years, off and on, I’ve hidden myself from the world back here at Galin’s cabin, but I can never seem to recreate those feelings … that peace.”